Hi, I am Vivien. I work with an educational consulting service. In my free time, I like trying new recipes that are quick and easy, planning my meals around foods that are in season and exploring farmers' markets and supermarkets in every country that I visit.
This is a simple Taiwanese dish. It is a folk recipe that calls for one cup each of sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine but its name is a bit misleading because in reality you don’t actually cook it that way. It is my favorite chicken dish in Taiwan. Its sauce is incredibly aromatic and goes really well with rice.
1/8 to 1/4 cup sesame oil *
1/4 cup rice wine
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp sugar
2 lbs chicken – thighs and wings, cut into pieces
One inch piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced into rounds
12 medium garlic cloves, peeled
1 – 2 fresh red chilis, seeds removed and cut into halves
1 bunch of Thai basil leaves (optional)
* I modified the original recipe to use less than 1/4 cup sesame oil and discovered that it didn’t compromise too much on the taste.
Heat the sesame oil in a frying pan. Add ginger, garlic and chili and stir fry until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the chicken to the pan and stir fry for about 5 mins until they are cooked.
Add rice wine, soy sauce and sugar and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to cook the chicken thoroughly. Add in Thai basil leaves and serve with rice.
Savory Tofu Soup is a traditional breakfast which a lot of people in China and Taiwan grew up eating. Most people know of soy milk as a drink but when soy milk is heated up with vinegar, it curdles into chunks of soft delicious tofu swimming in a salty, vinegary broth (tastes kind of like a hot and sour soup).
It is often eaten with scallion pancakes, Chinese egg pancakes (Dan Bing) and crusty buns filled with pork, vegetables or sweet egg cream (Shao Bing).
There is a famous market stall in Taipei, called FuHang (阜杭豆漿) in HuaShan Market, across the road from Shandao Temple that sells freshly made soy milk as well as this savory tofu soup and traditional buns made fresh on the premises. They have an open kitchen where you can watch them knead the dough and bake the buns in huge earthen jars …. it’s great fun to watch the kitchen workers make the Shao Bing while you are in line, inching towards the cashier. It is such a popular place that there are always lines running outside the stall, down the stairs to the first floor, and sometimes snaking around the outside of the building! The queue starts from the minute the stall opens at 5:30 am to around noon when they sell out.
The savory tofu soup is actually quite simple to make it yourself at home. The ingredients can be bought ahead of time. If you live in western countries, you can find ready-made scallion pancakes and Chinese fried dough crullers at the freezer section of most Asian supermarkets. Whether homemade or ready-made, scallion pancakes go really well with this tofu soup, and you are sure to impress your family with this traditional Chinese Sunday breakfast!
Unsweetened soy milk
Chinese black vinegar
preserved vegetables 榨菜
a few stalks of spring onions, chopped
Chinese fried dough crullers 油条, toasted and cut into slices
chili oil (optional)
dried shrimp or dried Sakura shrimp (optional, may be omitted for a vegetarian option)
Heat the soy milk in a saucepan.
In a small bowl, mix together a few teaspoons vinegar, salt, pepper to taste, a drizzle of sesame oil, a few teaspoons picked vegetables, chili oil and dried shrimp, according to your own taste.
Pour the mixture into the hot soy milk and let stand for a minute, without stirring.
Ladle out the tofu soup into a serving bowl.
Garnish with chopped spring onions and Chinese fried dough crullers. Serve hot.
This is a detoxifying soup that is perfect for any day. It is soothing and nourishing for the body. It is made with Chinese wolfberries (also known as Goji berries or “kei zi”) that pack a nutritious punch. Wolfberries provide a variety of antioxidants, including plant pigments called phenols, polysaccharides, vitamins A and C, beta carotene, lycopene, riboflavin, thiamine, and selenium. Traditional Chinese medicine uses wolfberries to treat dry skin and dry cough. It is also supposedly good for the eyes.
1 old cucumber (老黄瓜 “lou wong gua” in Cantonese)
100 g lean pork – cut into 1 inch pieces
1 small dried cuttlefish – rinsed (optional)
5 dried red dates
5 dried figs (无花果 “mo fa guo” in Cantonese) or dried honey dates
2 dried scallops – rinse and soak in fresh water overnight
2 Tbsp wolfberries (构 杞 “kei zi” in Cantonese) – rinsed
Peel the old cucumber. Cut it lengthwise into 2 halves, using a spoon scoop out the soft, pulpy center where the seeds are. Discard the soft pulp and seeds.
Put the pork into the soup pot and add just enough water to cover it. Blanch for a 1-2 minutes to remove the scum from the blood in the meat. Drain and discard the water that is used to blanch the pork.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot. Do not discard the soaking water for the scallops, add it into the pot too. Add in 10 cups of water and boil on high for 20 minutes, then simmer for 40 mins.
Add salt to taste
Note: I omitted the the dried cuttlefish when I made this soup (in picture) as I didn’t have any in my pantry.
Borsch is classic Ukranian soup which my family enjoys. It is perfect for a cold weather day, especially great for surviving this year’s deadly polar vortex in the U.S. It uses a lot of vegetables and it’s wonderfully satisfying. Every time I make Borsch I think of my father who used to take the family to Troika, a Russian restaurant in Singapore, when I was a child. In Hong Kong, it is a staple winter soup and it is called 羅宋湯 (“lor sung tong”) in Cantonese. In the Chinese version, there are no beets and sour cream is omitted. For a vegatarian option, this soup can be made without any meat. This is a really easy recipe – no skills required!
1/2 can sliced beets
1/2 head of cabbage
3 Tbsp tomato paste
180 g beef stew meat or oxtail
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
Peel carrots and potato. wash then cut into chunks.
Wash the cabbage, tomatoes and onion, then cut into chunks.
Cut the beef stew meat into bite-sized pieces.
Put all the ingredients into a huge soup pot. Add 10-12 cups of water and boil on high for 20 mins, then simmer for another 40 mins.
Add sugar (if it’s too sour), salt and pepper to taste.
Bubur Cha Cha is a popular dessert in Southeast Asian countries like Singapore and Malaysia. It is beautiful to look at and fun to make. This colorful dessert is made of miniature cubes of sweet potato and taro, delicate pearls of sago and chewy glutinous balls swimming in a fragrant coconut cream.
1 sweet potato
1 small taro (optional)
1 package (200 g) coconut cream or coconut milk
1 cup water
2-3 Tbsp sugar (or approx 40 g rock sugar, crushed into small pieces)
1/2 cup glutinous rice flour
1/4 cup sago
1 pandan leaf, washed and tied into a knot
red food coloring
green food coloring
Wash and scrub the sweet potato and steam it for 15 minutes or until it is cooked. Test for done-ness by pricking it with a fork. It should feel soft but not so soft that it falls apart when you cut it. Leave it to cool, then peel and discard the skin. Cut it into small cubes and put aside.
Prepare the taro cubes in the same manner as outlined in step 1.
While waiting for the sweet potato and taro to be cooked and cubed, prepare the glutinous balls. Mix 1/2 cup of glutinous rice flour with 6 Tbsp water. The mixture should not be so wet that it sticks to your fingers when you pinch a small amount between your fingers. If it is too wet, add a bit more glutinous rice flour to the mixture.
Divide the glutinous rice flour dough into 2 equal sized portions. Put each portion of dough into a small bowl. Add a drop of green food coloring to the first bowl and add 1-2 drops of red food coloring to the second bowl. Mix well. Pinch a small amount of the dough and roll it into a small ball and put aside on a plate. (Note: You may wish to make other kinds of colored dough eg for purple or yellow balls. In some Asian supermarkets, you may be able to purchase frozen and ready-made miniature colored glutinous rice balls but I think it is a fun family activity to make them yourself! 🙂
Bring a saucepan of water to boil. Add in all the glutinous balls and cook until they float to the top, about 3 mins. Remove from the stove and put aside.
Cook the sago in a small saucepan of boiling water for about 10 mins, stirring it constantly so that it does not stick together. The sago is cooked when most of the sago pearls are transparent. A small amount of sago pearls may have some white bits in the center but it is ok as they will be cooked again in step 8. Strain the sago into a bowl of cold water to prevent them from sticking together into a lump. Put aside the bowl of sago sitting in cold water.
Add 2-3 Tbsp sugar or crushed rock sugar to 1 cup of water and a pandan leaf tied into a knot into a saucepan. Stir and boil the mixture until all the sugar is melted, for about 2 -3 mins. Add in the coconut milk, stir and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and remove the pandan leaf from the pot.
Stir in the sweet potato cubes, taro cubes and glutinous rice balls. Drain the sago pearls and discard the cold water. Stir the sago pearls into the mixture. Turn off the stove to prevent overcooking.
Serve hot or cold. This recipe is good for 4 persons.
Some people like to add in small cubes of cantaloupe or agar agar jelly for extra variety, color and texture.
Pandan leaf is used to infuse a fragrant smell. It is commonly grown in Southeast Asian countries and it is available in the local markets. You may find it in the frozen foods section in some Asian supermarkets in western countries.
The first time I tried this wild vegetable which Taiwanese call Shan Su Cai (山稣菜) was in Hualien’s Taroko National Park. I was told it is rarely available because people have to climb up hilly slopes to harvest it in the wild. To my surprise, I found it in the local market this morning, so naturally, I had to buy 2 bundles (ntd 60 which is about usd 2) to try.
On Googling this vegetable’s Chinese name, I discovered its English name is Bird’s Nest Fern! Imagine that, eating a fern. I wonder if this is the same Bird’s Nest fern that is ubiquitous in South East Asia. It can be found growing on the trees by the roadside, or in forested areas in countries like Malaysia and Singapore where I come from…. Well, nobody I know in Singapore has ever bothered to harvest the Bird’s Nest fern to eat. I wonder if this Taiwanese Shan Shu vegetable is the edible kind and the Bird’s Nest Fern of my Singaporean childhood is the inedible kind.
In any case, they don’t know what they are missing – a delightfully crunchy vegetable stir fried with fresh cut chili and small fish, done in the Taiwanese way.
2 bundles of Bird’s Nest Fern – washed and cut into bite sized pieces
1 chili – cut into slivers
5 Tbsp small fish (anchovies or ikan bilis)
2 cloves garlic – peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp preserved black beans or garlic black bean sauce
3 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 -2 Tbsp cooking oil
1. Blanch the Bird’s Nest Fern in boiling water for 5 seconds, drain and keep aside.
2. Rinse and pat dry the small fish. Stir fry the small fish, chili, black beans and garlic in 1 to 2 Tbsp cooking oil, using low heat.
3. Add in the Bird’s Nest Fern. Mix in the oyster sauce. Stir fry quickly using high heat. Add a few tablespoons of water if it is dry. Do not overcook the Bird’s Nest Fern as it will turn brown.
4. Dish up and serve with rice.
See stunning pictures of Taroko National Park here:
Today I forced myself to stay at home and get my tax return done (sigh… it’s that time of the year), so it’s the perfect excuse to make a comforting bowl of mushroom soup to go with toasted garlic bread.
This recipe works well with any kind of mushrooms. I had some bits of chanterelle mushroom stems which I had saved from another recipe (they were too tough to be used in a stir fry) and I added a handful of morel mushrooms to make this soup.
1/2 cup of chanterelle mushroom stems – soaked
a handful of dried morel mushrooms – soaked
1 cup low sodium chicken broth or homemade chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1 clove garlic – peeled and crushed
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1. Put the mushroom stems in a blender with a bit of water to make a puree.
2. Place the mushroom puree in a medium saucepan.
3. Add chicken stock and milk. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and set aside.
4. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir fry the garlic quickly for a few minutes until it is almost brown.
5. Add in the sliced morel mushrooms and stir fry for 5 minutes.
6. In a small bowl, make a slurry by adding a few tablespoons of the soup to the flour, stirring well to prevent any lumps.
7. Combine well the slurry with the morel mushrooms.
8. Stir the morel mushroom mixture into the soup and simmer for about 20 minutes.
9. Add salt and pepper to taste.
10. Serve immediately.
Note: In a pinch, open a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, and simmer with the mushroom puree and sliced morel mushrooms. The chanterelle and morel mushrooms really jazz up canned soup! 🙂